My 19-year-old daughter has been with her boyfriend for almost a year and they are both supposed to be staying with us for a long weekend in February. My daughter has said she would like them both to be put in the spare room with its double bed.
I hope it doesn’t sound ridiculously old fashioned if I say that this makes me feel uncomfortable. I realise my daughter is unlikely to be a virgin, but I don’t want to have her sex life thrust in my face over the breakfast table, so to speak.
More to the point, her father would be apoplectic at the idea. I also worry about the precedent it will set to her younger sister. I’ve expressed my concerns to my daughter and now she says she might not visit at all. Am I being that unreasonable?
If you can’t be unreasonable in your own home, where can you be? Ok, I’m joking, but underneath my jest lies a serious point. This matter concerns your domestic sphere and that is where you lay down the rules.
You are not telling your daughter not to share a bed with her boyfriend in her own home, just as you wouldn’t dictate how she should vote.
Yes, there are mothers who billet grown up daughters in the same bed as their boyfriends, but I don’t view them as being more ‘reasonable’ than you, they just take a more liberal view. There are concerns that are a matter of personal conscience and this is one of them.
My mother took your line and wouldn’t have dreamt of putting any of her five children in our large spare bed with a boyfriend or girlfriend until they were a) engaged to be married, or b) in one brother’s case, had been living together for more than eight years and were about to have a baby.
Meanwhile, my parents-in-law always put my husband and I in twin beds, even after we were married!
Those who find this unnecessarily prudish should remember how most children are appalled by any reminder their parents have had sex. To be honest, I think most families find it hard to think about any relative in an erotic light.
Most of us feel the same as we did at 12 when we watched an older sibling snog some teenager and went…‘Yuck!’…but the truth is, todays 14 year ols are yesterdays 18/19 year olds.
Mind you, it would be pointless to pretend that many children don’t clash with their parents over the partner bedding issue.
One friend was so incensed, aged 26, that her boyfriend had been placed in her brother’s bedroom that she insisted on squeezing in with him that night, deliberately sauntering out of the door the next morning in a negligee as her mother was going to the bathroom.
She admits now, at the grand age of 43, that her behaviour was ‘an infantile prolonging of teenage rebellion’, and says she understands her parents’ point of view now she has children of her own.
She says, ‘I don’t want to be one of those trendy mums who encourages her daughter to shack up with every passing boy.’
She admits that her husband is quite likely ‘to guard our daughter’s bedroom door with a shotgun’.
Among my wider circle of friends, it is clear that the parents of boys feel more relaxed about joint sleeping arrangements than the parents of girls. I presume this is because they don’t have quite the same fears about pregnancy.
Most of the parents I know who have faced your situation have worked hard to find some sort of compromise.
One mother-of-three says of her 22-year-old son, ‘It’s so hard to him to come home at all now he’s landed a job in Sydney that I don’t want to put him off by being prissy, although I’m not right-on enough to give him the double bed. Instead, I put a camp-bed up in his old room, so he’s in with his girlfriend but I don’t feel like I’m running a love hotel.’
A lot of people recommended this approach, and it’s what I’ll do in future years when one of my sons first wants to bring a girl home. The best thing about the ‘Z-bed’ situation is that it allows both sides dignity…the parent gets to make their woolly moral stand, while the child is free to bend the rules.
I do, however, think that there comes an age when this is not appropriate: you can’t go sticking thirty-something professionals on fold-ups. I also think if your adult children have been co-habiting for some while, it’s rather churlish to treat them as casual partners.
In-laws come in less conventional packages these days, and you don’t want to alienate someone who might well turn out to be the father or mother of your grandchildren.
So if your daughter stands her ground regarding this February visit, invest in a put-me-up (if your husband’s blood pressure can stand it), since it will likely see good service through both your children’s forays into the romantic field.
If that solution still proves too draconian for your headstrong daughter, then she is the one who is being unreasonable.
by Susan Floyd